The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2
At 6am on 7th May 2004, Axel Gembe awoke in the small German town of Schönau im Schwarzwald to find his bed surrounded by police officers. Automatic weapons were pointing at his head and the words “Get out of bed. Do not touch the keyboard” were ringing in his ears.
Gembe knew why they were there. But, bleary-eyed, he asked anyway.
“You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation’s network, stealing the videogame Half-Life 2, leaking it onto the internet and causing damages in excess of $250 million,” came the reply. “Get dressed.”
Seven months earlier, on 2nd October 2003, Valve Corporation director Gabe Newell awoke in the large American city of Seattle to find the source code for the game his company had been working on for almost five years had leaked onto the internet.
The game had been due for release a couple of weeks earlier but the development team was behind. 12 months behind. Half-Life 2 was going to be late, and Newell had yet to admit how late. Such a leak was not only financially threatening but deeply embarrassing.
After a few moments pondering these immediate concerns, an avalanche of questions tumbled through Newell’s mind. How had this happened? Had the leak come from within Valve? Which member of his team, having given years of their life to building the game, would jeopardise the project in the final hour?
If it wasn’t an inside job, how the hell did it happen? Did someone have access to Valve’s internal server?
But the question which rang out loudest of all was the one anyone who has ever had something stolen from them cannot push from their mind: who did this?
You can read the rest of the story over at Eurogamer here